In March 2021, Christopher Worrell was arrested and incarcerated in the D.C. Jail on felony charges arising out of his alleged participation in the January 6, 2021, Capitol Hill protest.
Worrell suffers from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and, in May 2021, he broke his hand while in custody. After he was examined by an orthopedic specialist, it was determined that he should have corrective surgery.
In August 2021, his lawyers advised U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth — a Reagan nominee on the D.C. District Court — that, instead of surgery, D.C. Jail officials had limited Worrell’s treatment to Tylenol and similar anti-inflammatory drugs.
By early October 2021, Worrell’s broken hand still hadn’t been operated on. That was when a frustrated Judge Lamberth ordered the D.C. Department of Corrections (D.C. DOC) to turn over the orthopod’s notes concerning Worrell’s condition to the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) so that the surgery could be authorized.
But by October 12, 2021, the D.C. DOC still had not provided the notes to the USMS. Consequently, Lamberth scheduled a contempt hearing for the following day to find out why his order hadn’t been obeyed.
At the contempt hearing, counsel for the D.C. DOC argued that jail officials had worked diligently to compile Worrell’s medical records, and that there was no reason to hold anyone in contempt since the preceding day the records had been turned over to the USMS.
But Lamberth wasn’t buying it.
“His medical need hasn’t been met since June!” said the exasperated judge. “He’s needed an operation. He hasn’t gotten it. The Marshals Service has been asking for this information. They haven’t gotten it. It took a court order from me and a threat of contempt to get it approved. Why did that happen? No one at the jail noticed he’s been sitting there in pain this whole time?
“It’s clear to the court that they had given the back of the hand to the court,” Lamberth continued. “How did these notes magically appear and why did they never get to [the USMS]? Where did they suddenly come from? I set a trial for the D.C. Department of Corrections and the warden, and suddenly they appear.
“I find that the civil rights of the defendant have been abused. I don’t know if it’s because he’s a January 6 defendant or not, but I find this matter should be referred to the attorney general of the United States for a civil rights investigation into whether the D.C. Department of Corrections is violating the civil rights of January 6 defendants … in this and maybe other cases.”
And with that, Lamberth entered the following written order:
For the reasons stated in open court, it is adjudged that the Warden of the D.C. Jail Wanda Patten and Director of the D.C. Department of Corrections Quincy Booth are in civil contempt of court. The Clerk of the Court is ordered to transmit a copy of this order to the Attorney General of the United States for appropriate inquiry into potential civil rights violations of Jan. 6 defendants, as exemplified in this case.
Following Lamberth’s contempt order, the USMS conducted an unannounced inspection of the D.C. Jail’s Central Detention Facility (CDF) and Central Treatment Facility (CTF).
On November 2, 2021, the USMS released a statement about its inspection. In it the USMS stated that the inspection “was prompted by recent and historic concerns raised regarding conditions at the D.C. DOC facilities, including those recently raised by members of the judiciary.”
The USMS found that the conditions at the CDF “do not meet the minimum standards of confinement as prescribed by the Federal Performance-Based Detention Standards.” As a result, the USMS was moving 400 detainees from the CDF to a federal facility in Pennsylvania.
But strangely the USMS reached a different conclusion about the CTF. Noting that the January 6 detainees were being held there, the USMS stated — without explanation — that the inspection “did not identify conditions that would necessitate the transfer of inmates from that facility at this time.”
The next day Judge Lamberth announced that, as a result of the USMS inspection, he had “zero confidence” D.C. DOC officials would ensure that Christopher Worrell would get the medical care he needed for his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other ailments. The judge also expressed concerns that guards at the D.C. Jail would retaliate against Worrell, whose case appeared to have, in part, prompted the USMS surprise inspection.
Accordingly, he ordered Worrell’s transfer to temporary detention in Virginia while arrangements were made for his supervised pre-trial release.
Worrell has reached a safe harbor, but scores of other January 6 pre-trial detainees remain in the D.C. Jail.
In addition to the horrendous conditions found by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) during their tour of the D.C. Jail, consider the case of January 6 detainee Nathan DeGrave. (READ MORE from George Parry: A Visit to the DC Gulag)
At the end of January 2021, the FBI arrested DeGrave in Nevada, and, shortly thereafter, he was lodged at the CTF. In October 2021, DeGrave released a letter through his attorney describing the January 6 defendants’ conditions of confinement.
What follows are extracts from his letter.
The false narrative has been passed around the jail and to corrections officers that we are “white supremacists” (we are not). The inmate population is predominantly black, so we are at risk being here because of this false narrative. The guards are mostly liberal migrants from Africa who have been conditioned to hate us, and hate America. Jan 6ers have been mocked, beaten and ridiculed by guards for singing the National Anthem. The Corrections Officers despise our politics and the love we have for this country. At one point, an officer even yelled “f–k America!”, and threatened to lock us down for a week if we attempted to sing the National Anthem again.
Many times, the little rec [recreation] we do receive is stripped away if our cell isn’t up to the standards of the guard on duty. This changes from day to day. Jan. 6ers have lost rec time and out of cell activity any time news interviews about the jail are aired on TV, people speak up about our conditions, or rallies are held in our name. We’ll probably have a lockdown upon the publishing of this letter.
Masks are weaponized and used against us, even though we never leave the facility. Officers have walked in with the sole intention of needing to write 20-30 disciplinary reports against Jan 6ers, which adversely effects our chances of release and causes loss of privileges, phone time and commissary. Masks need to be covering both the nose and mouth at all times or we are threatened and locked down in our cells. Jan 6ers are always respectful to the employees around us, but C.O.s [Corrections Officers] maintain the need to invent reasons for discipline.
Privileged legal documents have been confiscated and gone missing from various cells, and highly sensitive discovery (video evidence under attorney/client privilege) is watched by employees during our legal calls.
The extreme medical neglect in this facility has caused a variety of adverse illnesses and disease. Some show signs of scurvy. And some even have Covid like symptoms, but medical personnel have refused to treat it.
On at least five occasions, raw sewage has overflowed our unit, causing human fecal matter to flood the floors and rooms. That’s also in addition to the mold on cell walls, as well as the rusty pipes, and dirty water that flows from these sinks.
An inmate named Ryan Samsel, instead attempted to organize his own Bible study inside the pod, until he was viciously beaten and left for dead by correctional officers. He suffered a broken eye socket and brain damage as a result of the vicious attack. He’s now permanently blind in one eye.
And so on. You should read DeGrave’s letter in its entirety.
So far there has been no sign that Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice or Christopher Wray’s FBI have acted on Judge Lamberth’s referral for a civil rights investigation. But, if they do get around to investigating, what will they find?
Consider this: the USMS, a bureau of Garland’s DOJ, has already turned a blind eye to the atrocious conditions and documented abuses at the CTF. Did that happen in a vacuum, or is it a portent of coming attractions from the DOJ and FBI?
When asked why he represented mobsters and other social pariahs, the great Washington lawyer Edward Bennett Williams replied that he did so in order to preserve Americans’ rights and liberties under the law. The erosion of those rights, he said, will not start with the popular members of society. It will start with those who are despised, condemned, and deemed unworthy.
And so it is with the January 6 detainees. Today they are the ones who are despised by the media, the establishment, and “all the right people.”
But if their mistreatment is allowed to go unchallenged, where will it end, and who will be next?
George Parry is a former federal and state prosecutor. He blogs at knowledgeisgood.net and may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.